Consciously Respect Others to Avoid Microaggressions

BY Tim Londergan
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Respect means that you accept somebody for who they are, even when they’re different from you… Respect doesn’t have to come naturally – it is something you learn.” – kidshelpline​.com

Business leadership in a diverse society requires sensitivity. Unexpectedly, this thoughtfulness often extends below a conscious level when we act or say something that may be inadvertently offensive to another person. Yet, as a sales leader you must set an example for others to follow. Subsequently, that is why it is important for you to know and understand how to avoid microaggressions. Furthermore, you must be proactive in calling out these vague and often ambiguous statements to your colleagues and co-​workers. Regardless of position, background or opinion, everyone is touched by the feelings of trust, safety and wellbeing that create a healthy company culture.

Avoid microaggressions first, by recognizing them

Ignorance is no excuse to offend or mistreat other people or to do things that reflect badly upon you, others, and society. Therefore, you need to understand that “microaggressions are indirect, often unintentional expressions of racism, sexism, ageism or ableism.” This is the cautionary tone set by authors of a recent item in businessinsider​.com. The article cites the resignation of two Salesforce employees who experienced discrimination due to a culture of microaggressions and inequity. Further, the authors share that 61% of U.S. employees had witnessed or experienced workplace discrimination based on age, race, gender or LGBTQ identity, according to a Glassdoor survey. Here are some examples of microaggression cited by the authors:

  • "When a white colleague tells a colleague of color 'You're so articulate' or 'You speak so well,' the remark suggests that they assumed the person in question would be less articulate — and are surprised to find out they aren't."
  • Oh, you're gay? You should meet my friend, Ann. She's gay, too!”
  • "When an older male colleague tells a junior female colleague 'You look so young' or 'You look like a student.”

As a solution, the authors’ advice is to just say nothing. In other words, check yourself before you speak. Consider why you would question or comment on a person’s status or lifestyle choice. Similarly, making uninformed assumptions is harmful and rude.

How we talk can hide microaggressions

Oddly, it is often difficult to know that we have insulted someone. Conversely, we may feel offended at the conclusion of a conversation. But ignorance is not an excuse, it's a choice. Therefore, we can choose to avoid microaggressions by watching our language and honoring others for their diversity and life choices. Meanwhile, in your coaching sessions, you may want to focus on the deceptive nature of this issue to help your team avoid microaggressions and aid their self-examination.

Listen carefully to uncover microaggressions

It may be easier to recognize bullying in the workplace as it is often more overt. However, you owe it to your organization to be proactive in exposing all microaggressions. Moreover, you must actively listen for insolence, bias, veiled contempt, and disrespect. Strictly speaking, ignorance, or being ignorant, is simply a lack of understanding. Innocence, cluelessness, unawareness, obliviousness, and unfamiliarity are not acceptable excuses. Universally, respect for others in the workplace is mandatory. If they are to avoid microaggressions, your team must be cognizant of their existence and the seriousness of these offenses that will have a devastating effect on your company’s culture both legally and financially.

To learn more about coaching your team to avoid microaggressions and improve their self-​analysis, download SalesFuel’s free white paper, “Are They Coachable?”

Photo by Ilayza Macayan on Unsplash